The Dialectical Inquiry into Voluntariness

Susan Sauvé Meyer

in Aristotle on Moral Responsibility

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199697427
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732072 | DOI:
The Dialectical Inquiry into Voluntariness

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This chapter offers a detailed textual analysis of the discussions that yield the definitions of voluntariness in the EE, EN, and MM. It shows that Aristotle carries out in these discussions precisely the project that Chapters 1 and 2 lead us to expect he will, and that he carries it out in his typical dialectical fashion. The discussions in the MM and EE, which are not entirely aporetic and inconclusive, and that of the EN, which is far more theoretical and critical of ordinary criteria than it initially appears, are, respectively, earlier and later stages in an extended dialectical argument in which Aristotle develops an account of voluntariness by appeal to (a) ordinary criteria for and paradigms of voluntariness and involuntariness; (b) rival philosophical accounts of voluntariness — notably those of Plato and Socrates; and (c) plausible examples of praiseworthy and blameworthy activity. In typical dialectical fashion, Aristotle first generates conflicts between (a), (b), and (c), and then solves the conflicts by revising the initial considerations. He always solves conflicts by revising (a) and (b) in the light of (c), and (c) turns out to express the account of praiseworthiness that emerges from Chapter 2: that agents are praiseworthy and blameworthy for the actions caused by their moral character.

Keywords: Aristotle; voluntariness; Plato; Socrates; praiseworthiness

Chapter.  13706 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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